A Facebook Live video allegedly shows the terrifying final moments inside the cabin on Yeti Airlines Flight 691 before it Crashed in Nepal Sunday was widely circulated online, as search and recovery efforts continue on the ground.
The plane crashed while on its way from Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, to Pokhara, the tourist gateway to the Himalayas. There were 72 people on board, including four crew members, according to an airline spokesperson.
With all but two bodies recovered, the accident represented the state of the country The most dangerous air disaster in over 30 years.
The video was allegedly broadcast live from inside the aircraft by a passenger, Sonu Jaiswal, with the footage beginning moments before the crash. It shows the window of the plane where the wing is seen outside as the plane curves sharply to the left.
At one point, apparently unaware of the impending danger, Jaiswal turned the video to himself, smiling slightly amid the background chatter and laughter. Many passengers can be heard speaking excitedly in a mixture of Hindi and Punjabi. “Look at that body of water, it’s excellent,” one person says, as the plane passes by a lake.
The mood inside the plane appears calm, with no emergency warnings from the pilot or airline crew. Seconds later, the video suddenly started to tremble as shouts were heard. The camera loses focus, and only flashes of light and a loud noise are visible, before the scene bursts into flames.
CNN confirmed the video based on geolocation, flight manifest and information on the Yeti Airlines website.
Jaiswal is listed as a passenger on the flight manifest, and the seat number listed for him on the airline’s website matches photos taken from inside the plane.
Armaan Ansari, one of Jaiswal’s close friends in India, also confirmed that Jaiswal was seen in the video. He added that he was watching a Facebook live stream from Jaiswal during the flight.
“We were watching it. We’d only watched it for a few seconds and then it cut off. We didn’t think much of it,” he said.
Ariyaka Akhouri, the district chief of Gazipur in India where Jaiswal lives, said she spoke to Jaiswal’s parents, and confirmed that he was on the plane and shot the video.
A spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) said the video was not from Sunday’s crash. When pressed, he said he and his team had no technical evidence to support the claim. Instead, he pointed to passengers laughing at the first sign of turbulence before panic set in seconds later as evidence that it couldn’t be a Yeti Airlines flight.
Aviation analyst Mary Schiavo told CNN that the video could be useful in the investigation, saying it may have captured details not recorded in the plane’s black box. For example, the aircraft’s flap, which gives extra lift during descent, “doesn’t seem to be fully extended,” she says.
She added that what appeared to be the sound of an engine indicated “that they have the capacity for at least one engine.”
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Nepali police said search and rescue efforts continued on Tuesday for the missing persons. District police chief Ajaya KC said the foggy weather was making the search difficult and authorities planned to use drones to locate the missing when the weather cleared.
On the other hand, the cause of the plane crash is still being investigated with the help of French investigators who will be at the site by Tuesday. Officials said the plane’s black box, which records flight data, was recovered on Monday and will be turned over to CAAN.
On Tuesday, aviation authorities said the pilot of the plane had asked air traffic controllers to change the runway minutes before the plane went down.
Jagannath Nirola, spokesperson for CAAN, said Pokhara Airport has two runways that pilots can choose between when landing, and the pilot’s request has been accepted.
“When the captain of Yeti Airlines asked the tower if he could use the second runway for landing, the tower agreed,” he said. “The tower controllers didn’t ask why the pilot wanted to use a different runway than originally planned, as it wasn’t technically an issue on their end which runway the pilot chooses for landing,” Nirula told CNN.
He added that no distress calls from the pilot had been reported to the tower controllers at Pokhara Airport.
In Kathmandu and Pokhara, crowds held candlelight vigils for the victims on Monday.
Yeti Airlines said in a statement on Monday that at least 41 bodies had been found among the bodies recovered. Police said some of the bodies would be handed over to their families in Pokhara, while others – including foreign nationals – would be taken to Kathmandu on Tuesday.
Fifteen foreigners were on board, from India, Russia, South Korea, Australia, Ireland, Argentina and France, according to CAAN.
Videos on Monday showed grieving families in Pokhara, waiting outside the hospital where autopsies were being carried out. Autopsies were delayed because a team of forensic experts did not arrive in Pokhara until Monday afternoon, according to police and aviation officials.
Some families are starting to talk about the loss of their loved ones. The family of Australian victim Myron Love said in a statement on Tuesday that the 29-year-old was an avid cyclist who “lived life to the fullest”.
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